Since the use of the Environment Rating Scales in research has been well documented in the literature, it is important to describe here some of the current use of our scales in program improvement efforts in the US and in other countries. The scales are used in a variety of ways including for self-assessment by center staff, preparation for national accreditation programs, voluntary improvement efforts by licensing or other agencies and in state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). For example, in the United States the following use of the scales has been established, and is ongoing in many of these examples:
- The Environment Rating Scales (ERS) are used in the Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) in various ways. In most of the QRIS the scales are used as the main observational instrument to assess the quality of daily practices on which the quality level of the program is based. For details about how the various state QRIS programs use the ERS, see *insert link here*
- The state of Arkansas has trained personnel, who do assessments and provide training and technical assistance so that child care centers and homes can increase their quality of care. The Federal money allotments for improving child care are linked to measurable program improvement on the scales. Another innovative feature of the Arkansas program is that parents who select child care facilities with an average/ of 4.5 or higher on our scales are eligible for two times the state child care tax exemption. Thus both parents and providers are being rewarded for quality improvements that benefit the children.
- The state of Colorado uses the scales in a variety of program improvement and evaluation projects. For example, Denver has a quality improvement program that uses on site consultation and training based on scale scores. Many of the centers participating in this program serve poor and minority children and their families. The state of Colorado is currently considering a tiered reimbursement system using the scales.
- Many counties involved in the state of North Carolina’s quality improvement program, Smart Start, require the use of the scales in self-assessment before a center or family child care home may apply for an individual grant. This ensures that the staff will order equipment, materials, and/or request training based on needs that have been objectively substantiated.
- North Carolina also currently uses scale scores as part of their QRIS 5 star rated license system. Centers and family child care homes are awarded either one or two stars based on compliance with licensing standards. Programs may voluntarily apply for an additional three to five stars based on a set of quality measures including teacher and director education, and the levels of process quality as measured by the appropriate Environment Rating Scale. Only the lowest level of licensing is mandatory. However, an additional fee is paid to the provider of subsidized care for each additional star earned voluntarily.
- The Oklahoma 3 star tiered license incorporates an evaluation with the scales in the second tier as a basis for quality improvement, and provides technical assistance based on scores for meeting accreditation standards. Tiered reimbursement is a part of this system.
- Tennessee initiated a rated license QRIS system, based on North Carolina’s experience. In their system, however, program evaluation is not voluntary, but is required yearly to create a “Report Card” that must be posted with the license so child care consumers have access to reliable information on the quality of child care they are using for their children. Tiered reimbursement is also tied to scores on the scales.
- Other states, including California, Massachusetts, Montana, Mississippi, Kansas, Oregon, Kentucky, New Mexico, Georgia, Florida, Wisconsin, and Nebraska have also initiated quality evaluation and improvement programs using our scales. Each state is tailoring its use of the scales to its individual needs and resources.
- All the US military services have been using the scales routinely in their center and family child care homes for program improvement and monitoring. The military child development system was recognized by Executive Order in 1998 for its high quality.
- The District of Columbia uses the scales as a basis for technical assistance in child care centers and family child care homes in their Quality Care for Children Initiative, which provides on-site multi-visit consultation services.
- Our environmental rating scales are widely used by programs as they prepare for accreditation. This is due to the fact that our scales use a format with detailed levels of quality that provides a blueprint for gradual change. The content of our scales is completely supportive of the various credentialing and accreditation programs.
Use of our scales in foreign countries, either in translation or in the original version has been increasing rapidly. Examples of use are:
- In Canada, the scales are available in both English and French. In many of the provinces, they are used as a voluntary part of the licensing visit. The license is given for compliance with a licensing checklist, mainly composed of health and safety items. During the visit, the licensing consultant also completes one of our improvement goals for the program. The scales are used over a longer period in intensive consultation with programs that show problems during the licensing visit.
- In Sweden, several projects are using preschool teachers as leaders in program improvement efforts with the Swedish ECERS. In Stockholm, the staff working together in a classroom independently completes one subscale of the scale each month, then discusses their scores under the leadership of their head teacher, who is a fully trained preschool teacher. The staff makes and carries out its own improvement plans. A study of this low cost program showed substantial gains in quality (20-46%) (Andersson, 1998). Another program in the Gothen burg area uses preschool teachers as mentors for other programs.
In Germany, the scales are presently being used by individual cities to evaluate the quality of child care and kindergarten programs. Reports are provided to administrative agencies and to center staff, as a basis for program improvement planning. In addition, the scales are being considered as part of a program accreditation system or QRIS.